Monitoring and evaluation play a
vital role in conservation. It tells us how much progress we are making towards
our goals and ultimately if our actions are making a difference. Equipped with
this information, we can make better decisions about what works and what we
need to do differently.
The importance of evaluation to
our training programme is no exception, however, it is uniquely challenging.
Unlike the outcomes of many of our other conservation actions, the outcomes of
training can be much more difficult to define and measure. In 2016, we set out
to overcome these challenges and develop a system that systematically evaluates
the difference our training programme makes to individuals and their work (a project generously funded by the Balcombe Trust).
To do this, we first created a theory of change, i.e. a model that describes the pathway of change we expect from an individual completing a training course to achieving conservation goals. The purpose of this theory of change is to guide the evaluation process, enabling us to identify what we need to measure at each step, in order to evaluate progress and success.
Following training, we believe an
individual gains knowledge, self-confidence, a drive to succeed and a new
supportive network. As a result, an individual can be more personally effective
and capable of taking effective conservation action. Ultimately leading to the
positive conservation impact we strive to achieve.
At each step, we ask our trainees
to complete a short online survey that includes both quantitative and
qualitative data collection methods. The quantitative data allows us to assess
if we are achieving the change we expect, and the qualitative data allows us to
capture any unexpected or unmeasurable change an individual might experience.
Over time, it becomes
increasingly challenging to attribute change to a training course, and so our
focus shifts to measuring the extent to which training contributes to progress
made and success achieved. The more we learn, the more refined our theory of
This system provides us
with a wealth of information about the difference our training programme makes,
enabling us to keep exploring new ways of maximising our impact.